In the context of reports of worker shortages in economically critical STEM fields, this fact sheet provides a detailed analysis of the characteristics and contributions of foreign-born STEM workers in the United States. Using American Community Survey data, the fact sheet notes that as of 2019, immigrants made up almost a quarter (23.1%), of all STEM workers in the entire country, up from 16.4% in 2000—a 44.5% increase, from 7.5 million to more than 10.8 million. The importance of immigrant STEM workers has grown in all states and across different STEM fields, with immigrants from India and China representing the largest share of workers. Foreign-born STEM workers also have higher rates of educational attainment than their U.S.-born counterparts. While gender disparity among immigrant STEM workers has decreased since 2000, immigrant women remain vastly underrepresented. As immigrant STEM workers tend to possess skills complementing those of U.S.-born STEM workers, their presence, according to cited research, increases the productivity and earnings of all workers. The share of foreign-born workers with advanced degrees working in STEM occupations, from either U.S. or foreign institutions, is also associated with higher levels of employment for U.S.-born workers. As the U.S. demand for STEM workers continues to increase, the share of foreign-born STEM workers will likely grow and continue to play a key role in U.S. productivity and innovation. At the same time, an annual cap on the number of available green cards, H-1B visas, and other skilled talent visas has hindered efforts to hire immigrant STEM professionals and fill critical workforce shortages. If employers are unable to fill vacancies for skilled STEM workers, the authors conclude, the competitiveness of American companies and their ability to innovate may be in danger, with significant negative long-term effects on the U.S. economy. (Jeffrey Vega, Ph.D.)
Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States,
American Immigration Council, June 14, 2022, 17 pp.
(Update of 2017 report)